Micah: The Prophet Who Averted Disaster
Jeremiah 26:1-19 “In the beginning of the reign of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: “Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word. It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds. You shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: If you will not listen to me, to walk in my law that I have set before you, and to listen to the words of my servants the prophets whom I send to you urgently, though you have not listened, then I will make this house like Shiloh, and I will make this city a curse for all the nations of the earth.’” The priests and the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speaking these words in the house of the LORD. And when Jeremiah had finished speaking all that the LORD had commanded him to speak to all the people, then the priests and the prophets and all the people laid hold of him, saying, “You shall die! Why have you prophesied in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘This house shall be like Shiloh, and this city shall be desolate, without inhabitant’?” And all the people gathered around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD. When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the LORD and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the LORD. Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.” Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now, therefore, mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, behold, I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the LORD sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.” Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the LORD our God.” And certain of the elders of the land arose and spoke to all the assembled people, saying, “Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and said to all the people of Judah: ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “‘Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.’ Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all of Judah put him to death? Did he not fear the LORD and entreat the favor of the LORD, and did not the LORD relent of the disaster that he had pronounced against them? But we are about to bring great disaster upon ourselves.” This may seem like a strange way to introduce the book of Micah, but it actually gives us a unique insight into how effective Micah was as a prophet.
Notice where I underlined the highlights of this passage. I do not have the time to address all of this passage, but I want you to notice what I put in bold letters. It gives us insight into the effectiveness of Micah. Even though we often consider Isaiah the hero prophet of his day, the Jewish people in Jeremiah’s time, which was one generation removed from Isaiah and Micah, primarily recall the ministry of Micah as the one who caused Hezekiah to turn the nation back to God. Micah’s prophetic ministry caused the declaration of judgment to be delayed a generation.
Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Does anyone want to be blessed? Jesus indicated that the blessed ones would be in the same category as the prophets of old. Micah was one of the few prophets in the Old Testament that was actually listened to and that was acknowledged in his day as a true prophet of God even though he prophesied that God was sending judgment upon the nations of Israel and Judah. His success in turning the heart of Hezekiah and the nation did not end the promised judgment, but it did cause there to be a delay due to the repentance of the nation.
I’m not sure that we’re often aware of the fact that, for the most part, while they were living and ministering, the prophets mostly failed to turn the hearts of the people. Israel loved to celebrate the prophets after they were dead, but most often, they were the reason for their demise. Luke 11:47-51, “Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed. So you are witnesses and you consent to the deeds of your fathers, for they killed them, and you build their tombs. Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’ so that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be required of this generation.” In Micah’s case, his beginning appears to be the same as the other prophets before him. Let’s look at the setting of his beginning as a prophet and you’ll see what I mean.
Micah is contemporary with 3 other prophets, Hosea and Amos were prophesying in Israel and Isaiah and Micah were prophesying in Judah at the same time. This was just prior to the fall of Israel into captivity and in fact, Micah will prophesy its fall to the Assyrians. Evidently, Hosea, Amos, and Isaiah began prophesying just prior to Micah, but he joined them very soon after they began. If you recall the story of Uzziah king of Judah, he began as a righteous king and then later, pride entered his heart and he attempted to minister in the temple lighting the incense at the altar. While he was making the attempt to light the incense, the priests came in and caught him, and rebuked him. He was immediately struck with leprosy and was forced to live in a separate house for the rest of his life. We know that it was near this time that Isaiah began to prophesy because in Isaiah 6 he has his vision of the Lord in His temple and it says that it occurred in the year that king Uzziah died. Hosea 1:1 says that he prophesied during the reign of kings, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah and also during the reign of Jeroboam king of Israel. Amos 1:1 says that he prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam of Israel. Isaiah 1:1 says that he prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. And of course, Micah 1:1 says, “The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.” Each of these prophets was declaring the word of the Lord at the same time, but they were primarily unable to dissuade Israel from its sin.
It might seem like a strange introduction to Micah, but I want to start with another New Testament scripture that I believe reflects the purpose and outcome of Micah. James 2:12, 13 “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Micah is a book of judgment, but with an overarching theme of redemption through mercy. Mercy is the heart of God. Mercy is the nature of God. Mercy triumphs where repentance takes place. God spares those who have the heart to turn from their wicked ways.
For those of us who are parents, we understand that raising your child with no discipline is harmful to the well-being of that child. It creates a child who will become unacceptable to society, but most of all, it creates a child who will be insecure, undefined, and without hope. Identity is found in the challenge of discipline, both self-discipline and imposed discipline. Sometimes a child becomes so unruly that a parent or even society, by way of a judge, determines that only a military discipline may redeem the rebellion, and sometimes the only remedy for rebellion is imprisonment/bondage. Deep in our innermost intuition, we all realize that discipline brings order and purpose to an individual or a society. Law is established to provide that order for society. God has ordained law for the very same purpose.
Israel had become a rebellious child long before Micah came on the scene, but Micah was one who was chosen by God to pronounce the judgment of God on the nation. I think that we often avoid the term judgment, because it seems so final, whereas discipline seems much less permanent; but in the Bible, God seldom differentiates. Maybe it’s our New Testament perspective that avoids the term judgment when referring to God’s dealing with his Christian children. While the Bible teaches, that for those who live by the law of love, there is no judgment, it definitely also teaches that those who are not disciplined by God are not true children of God, Hebrews 12:8. For sure, in context, it uses the concept of a parent disciplining a child, but what does that look like for us who are not, at least physiologically, children? What does a spanking look like if we consider the dealings of God from an eternal perspective? You do realize that since you received the Spirit of Christ God has all of eternity to develop you into His purpose for your creation? God is not limited in His purpose for your life to the span of your present physical life. This life we now live is but a vapor, a grass that burns up in the sun, a flower that fades, Isaiah 40:6-8; James 1:10-11.
The dealings of God with Israel are for the long view. God is not nearly as concerned in His dealings, with how He is viewed at the moment as He is with the purity of His eternal purpose. His ultimate purpose is centered in His glory and He is jealous for His purpose. The whole insight into this jealousy is seen in His willingness to allow His chosen people to go into long captivity which seems to reflect poorly on His glory at the moment but has a long-term view of ultimately raising His glory to the nations. The same holds true for His church today. The Western church has fallen into a mediocrity that, I believe, will require Him to act with judgment in order to actually birth a people from the flames of His burning to a reflection that shines with unrelenting fire upon the darkness of this world, I Thessalonians 1.
I Peter 4:17 “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” One possible interpretation of this verse is that in this time before the Lord returns to judge the world, the judgment (discipline) of God is on His people. This is not an eternal judgment of condemnation, but a purifying of His people. Titus 2:11-15 tells us that God has a purpose in purifying a people to Himself, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to everyone. It instructs us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live sensible, upright, and godly lives in the present age, as we await the blessed hope and glorious appearance of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Speak these things as you encourage and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.” In this age, the Lord, by His grace, is “teaching us” or disciplining us, to renounce this world’s values in order to purify a people unto Himself! This happens through His dealings with us, but it also happens through the ministry He has given to His church as a love gift from on high, Ephesians 4:11.
God, in His love for us, deals with us as sons and daughters to make us, as much as is possible in this present age, into a people who are holy. This is not God acting in an abusive way, but rather He is dealing with us as His children. Hebrews 12:5-9 “And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?” You may say, ‘But I thought that because He loves me, He would bless me with my heart’s desire?’ Psalms 37:4 “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” When He is our delight in every aspect of His will; when all we delight in is according to His delight, then those things will become ours! Until then, until our desires are only in accord with all of His desire, He will work to change our hearts, our thoughts, and our lives to conform to His LIFE.
The space of time between this life and the time we enter into His eternal existence, matters. We all expect a moment of instant transformation but Paul appeals with a deep sense of urgency, that we present ourselves for sacrifice and not be conformed to this world but rather that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, Romans 12:1. Paul is not speaking about a future transformation. He is talking about a change that is expected in this life, in the here and now. This appeal is an appeal of sacrifice and yet many modern teachers attempt to dissuade us from presenting ourselves. Peter speaks of those who promise you freedom when they themselves are in bondage to corruption, II Peter 2:19. The loudest cry of the true prophets and teachers of Christ in this age to the Western church should be Acts 26:17-18 “I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” It’s time for the church to turn and it’s time for the true prophets to demand repentance!
Micah declares an unavoidable judgment of God upon Israel and then upon Judah. However, in the long view, he declares an unstoppable purpose of God to redeem! It is also important to note that Micah does not just speak in terms of the nations of Israel or Judah, but refers his prophecy to the capitals of both nations, Samaria and Jerusalem. Micah 1:1 “The word of the LORD that came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.” I will come back to my original scripture in James 1 at the end, but let’s look at the significance of Micah 1:1 first. Why did God single out the capitals of these 2 nations? As we will see, it was because all of the corruption of the nation was flowing out from the corruption that was in their leaders. If your first thought goes to the political leaders in this nation, I believe your passions are misplaced. It’s true that our political leaders are mostly ungodly and influence this nation in ungodly directions, but I believe that much of our problems flow from a Church that is confused. It’s the leaders of the Church that are not standing firm in righteousness and that have allowed themselves to be influenced by the demands of worldly success values. The people flock to the churches that cater to their demands for a commercial environment that meets their expectations and the ministers have, much of the time, embraced that mentality in order to be successful in gathering crowds. We measure “God’s blessing” by how many people attend and how much wealth the ministry accumulates. We demand the highest technology, the most entertaining atmosphere, and the best children’s ministry before we are willing to bless the church with our presence. We are enthralled by these values and we cannot find a cure for our blindness.
Closing with the primary thought from James let me appeal to you that the God of mercy is calling to us and is so desiring to show us that Mercy does indeed triumph over judgment. Will we allow our hearts to be turned? John 5:39-40 “You pore over the Scriptures because you presume that by them you possess eternal life. These are the very words that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.” The deepest realization of our hearts must be, John 6:68 “You have the words of eternal life”.